|Views from the News|
|Cop who shot Thato ‘mentally unstable’
28 February 2012
A student constable accused of shooting dead a Soweto teenager was not supposed to have been carrying a firearm because he was mentally unstable.
Nor was he supposed to be among the officers who raided the youth’s shack in Bramfischerville.
Four police officers from the Dobsonville police station will have to explain to a court on Tuesday why Sipho Mbatha, 41, was allowed to carry the semi-automatic rifle that discharged as he was conducting a body search on Thato Mokoka, 16.
This emerged in the Roodepoort Regional Court on Monday during Mbatha’s bail application.
A senior investigator from the Independent Complaints Directorate, Leon Naidoo, testified that granting Mbatha bail was risky.
This, he said, was because a designated firearms officer at the police station had made a statement prohibiting Mbatha from carrying a firearm as he was mentally unstable.
Mbatha, Naidoo said, had attempted suicide in December.
He added that the firearms officer had also issued an order to restrict Mbatha, a sector patroller, in the community centre.
Yet again the commander on duty on the night of the incident had overruled him, and let Mbatha join the police officers who raided Thato’s shack.
Naidoo’s evidence prompted magistrate Elize Smith to remark: “The court should call the person who issued the accused (Mbatha) with the rifle. This would help clarify the allegations that the accused is unstable.”
Mbatha was arrested on February 17, three days after Thato was shot dead.
The court heard that Thato had, hours before he was murdered, confronted another boy in the township.
The boy, Naidoo said, was part of a three-member gang that had stabbed and robbed another teenager of cash.
When he confronted the boy, Thato had “something like a gun” around his waist.
Alarmed, the boy’s parents reported the incident at the Dobsonville police station.
It was then that Mbatha and the police officers, acting on information from the other youths and residents, went to raid Thato’s shack.
On arrival, the teenager’s relatives had showed them his shack in the backyard.
The police officers then dragged Thato out and ordered him to lie on his stomach while they searched the shack looking for guns. But no guns were found.
“Other police officers heard gunshots. When they looked at (student) constable Mbatha, they saw him throw down the gun and walk away from the deceased. He then ran away,” Naidoo said.
The court heard that the semi-automatic rifle, which can empty a magazine containing between 30 and 35 bullets in seconds, had not been in safety mode when the shots were fired.
Mbatha said he could afford bail of R8 000.
The hearing continues.
Mpisane tax fraud trial date set
28 February 2012
Durban businesswoman and multimillionaire Shauwn Mpisane will go on trial for tax fraud, involving R2.4 million, in June.
Mpisane, who owns Zikhulise Cleaning, Maintenance and Transport CC, is accused of submitting false invoices to reclaim VAT.
She is also charged with contraventions of the Close Corporations Act for managing a business in spite of being disqualified because she has a previous conviction for tax fraud.
Her former bookkeeper, Kishal Reddy, has already pleaded guilty to similar charges and a printer, Prem Ramdutt, who is alleged to have generated the false invoices for submission to Sars, has been charged with forgery and contravention of tax laws.
Reddy was fined R30 000 or six months imprisonment for his role in the fraud. Mpisane, lavishly dressed in a designer outfit, appeared before Durban regional court magistrate Sharon Marks on Monday.
Prosecutor Meera Naidu said the case was ready to be set down for a five-day trial in June.
She added that the trial would be transferred to another regional court, which had previously dealt with the case, to be heard before magistrate Fikile Luvuno.
Mpisane’s advocate, Jimmy Howse, said he was concerned that “all sorts was being investigated” and about several outstanding documents the defence did not have.
“Last year we were given a copy of the charge sheet and the docket. Earlier this month we indicated that there were statements taken by the investigating team which we did not have. We were later provided with a statement. We believed that this was the last of the documents we needed. However, the prosecutor said today (Monday) that we need about 500 pages worth of outstanding documents.
“If we are to be provided with documents in a haphazard manner, how are we to prepare for trial? The State wants the luxury to do as it pleases.”
Howse added that a senior advocate from Pretoria had been briefed to represent Mpisane in the trial.
Marks asked if the investigation was complete, as the case could not be set down for trial if it was not.
Naidu stressed that the investigation into the charge Mpisane faces was complete.
“Investigations are complete regarding this charge and we will endeavour to get the outstanding documents to the defence timeously.”
Proceedings were also briefly held in camera on Monday after Howse said he wished to raise a “privileged matter”, and Marks could decide whether the issue should be made public.
“It is regarding a privacy issue and it is personal. Therefore I do not think it would be appropriate for the press and public to be present.”
Marks granted his request and the court was cleared. She did not make the matter public and the case was adjourned to June 11. –
Many too ‘ignorant’ to judge courts
28 February 2012
More than a third of South Africans know too little about the judiciary to form an opinion about whether it is impartial.
This startling finding comes on the eve of a much-anticipated announcement by the government on its proposed review of the impact of Constitutional Court judgments which, together with comments about the court by senior ANC leaders, including President Jacob Zuma, has sparked fears of a move to curb its powers.
The survey by TNS SA found just 31 percent of respondents agreed that the judiciary was unbiased and impartial, while the same percentage felt the opposite and 38 percent gave a “don’t know” response.
On the other hand, 38 percent agreed with the statement that judges were biased towards the government, 27 percent disagreed and 36 percent were unsure.
The survey in October and early November of 2 000 adults in the seven metropolitan areas had a 2.5 percent margin of error, according to TNS.
Even the highly publicised process leading to the appointment of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, which included a two-day televised grilling by the Judicial Service Commission, seems not to have made an impression on many South Africans.
While 34 percent of respondents were happy with Justice Mogoeng’s appointment and 26 percent were not, 39 percent had no feelings either way.
This was the question that registered the greatest differences by race. Forty-three percent of black respondents said they were happy with Justice Mogoeng’s appointment, compared with only 22 percent of whites, 19 percent of coloureds and 17 percent of people of Asian descent.
TNS senior adviser Neil Higgs suggested the results showed that, despite extensive media coverage of judicial matters, trials and the appointment of the new chief justice, “there are high levels of ignorance about key aspects of the judiciary”.
“Of particular concern is that under a third of metro adults have any real confidence in the judiciary.”
Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe is to brief the media today on “the transformation of the judicial system and the role of the judiciary in the South African developmental state”.
Also on the agenda is the cabinet-ordered assessment of the impact Constitutional Court judgments have had on society.
When plans for the assessment were announced in November, they were met with widespread concern, especially because there had been expressions of frustration in senior ANC circles with the courts’ power to overturn decisions taken by the executive and Parliament.
Examples include Zuma’s attempt to extend the term of office of then-chief justice Sandile Ngcobo, his appointment of Menzi Simelane as prosecutions boss, and the act passed by Parliament that disbanded the elite Scorpions unit and established the Hawks in its place.
ANC heavyweights, including secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, chief whip Mathole Motshekga and Zuma, have questioned the impartiality and powers of the courts. Mantashe accused the courts last year of behaving like an opposition.
Motshekga told Rapport newspaper earlier this month that “some people” were out to “hand over” the powers of Parliament and the president to the courts.
Man found murdered at rehab centre
28 February 2012
The decomposed body of a rehabilitation centre employee has been found in his home in Cullinan, east of Pretoria, police said on Monday.
It was believed that the 26-year-old man had been murdered, police spokesperson Johannes Jaftha said in a statement.
A colleague of his went to his house on Sunday to investigate why he had not been seen for a week, he said.
She found the house, at the Dr Fabian and Florence Ribeiro rehabilitation centre, locked but peered through a window and saw his body on the floor.
Police forced the door open and found him dead with an open wound to his upper body.
Some of his property, including his car, were missing.
Twenty minutes later, police arrested five men in possession of the stolen car. They were expected to appear soon in the Cullinan Magistrate’s Court.
Jaftha said the murder investigation was continuing and police were awaiting the post mortem report.
Mom jailed for killing ‘love of her life’
28 February 2012
A Polokwane mother cried bitterly and clung to her new fiancé as she was led down to the holding cells at the Pretoria High Court on Monday to start serving a 15-year prison sentence murdering her previous fiancé.
Judge Ismail Mohamed rejected Yvonne Beetge’s evidence that “the love of her life” Bokkie Grundlingh shot himself after reading a suicide note to her.
The judge found it was not Grundlingh who had typed the “suicide note full of spelling errors”.
He also found Grundlingh did not commit suicide by shooting himself three times – in the right side of his face and abdomen, and in the left side of his head.
While the first two wounds could possibly have been the work of the right-handed Grundlingh, as claimed by Beetge, the State’s experts were adamant that the third shot – fired from the left-hand side – could not have been his doing, the judge found.
Another peculiar aspect was that the “suicide note”, which Beetge said Grundlingh placed on the floor with a picture of his family shortly before “committing suicide”, did not have a speck of blood on it, while the picture had blood splatterings.
Grundlingh’s long-standing doctor testified he was meticulous in his grammar and spelling, yet simple words in the letter were misspelled.
Judge Mohamed commented that the suicide letter had probably been intended to mislead the authorities, and said it had nearly succeeded.
Beetge was arrested only after the doctor who performed the post-mortem expressed the opinion that Grundlingh had not committed suicide, and a special task team began investigating the case.
Although the court found beyond reasonable doubt that Beetge was responsible for Grundlingh’s death when he was shot in the couple’s bedroom in November 2008, it was none the wiser about what happened or why.
“I am still in the dark as to what the motive for the killing was. Why did she do it?” the judge said.
Something must have sparked the events and the only one who knew the details was Beetge, he said.
Beetge’s testimony did not shed light on the events and she opted not to testify in mitigation of sentence, saying she was “too traumatised”.
Through her lawyer, she maintained her innocence to the end. Her version was that Grundlingh, a former soldier who fought in Angola, had terrible nightmares. He often walked around the house brandishing his firearm, thereby threatening everyone’s life around him.
Judge Mohamed said it was “astounding” that Beetge had not sought help for Grundlingh’s nightmares and had not reported to anyone that he walked around the house with his firearm.
According to Beetge, the couple were watching war movies on the night of the shooting. Grundlingh suddenly fetched his firearm after reading the suicide note to her.
She said she tried to wrest the weapon from him, when two shots went off. By the time the third shot was fired, she had closed her eyes.
Beetge was at a loss to explain how Grundlingh could have shot himself from the left side, when he was right-handed.
While sentencing Beetge, the judge was outraged when he was told she had been kept for more than four months in a Polokwane police cell in which she was exposed to the elements.
The defence told the judge that the cell did not have a roof, and her children had to provide a canvas cover so she could protect herself from the sun and the rain.
There was often no food at the police station and her children had to bring food for Beetge, the judge heard.
Her lawyer, after four months and an urgent application, managed to obtain bail on her behalf.
These facts were confirmed by the State, which said the police station was being refurbished at the time. Beetge had initially been refused bail because she was a suicide risk, the State said.
“I am amazed by what I heard… I find it disturbing. She appears to have been put in a cage like an animal,” the visibly upset judge said. He questioned how this could happen in a country with a constitution such as South Africa’s.
He said Beetge’s human rights had clearly been infringed. This contributed to her being given a lesser sentence than the 20 years sought by the State.
The defence said it might apply for leave to appeal on Monday.
Motata goes to court to get job on the bench back
28 February 2012
DISGRACED Pretoria High Court judge Nkola Motata, who was convicted of drunk driving in 2009, has launched a desperate court bid to stop Justice Minister Jeff Radebe from appointing a judicial conduct tribunal against him.
Motata claims such a tribunal, which would investigate charges of gross misconduct, is unconstitutional and unlawful.
In court papers filed in Pretoria on Friday, Motata has brought a court application to prevent Radebe from setting up the tribunal.
Motata also wants Radebe’s decision to place him on special leave to be declared unconstitutional and unlawful and wants to be allowed to work as a judge again.
"There is no provision in the constitution which confers a right to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to decide which conduct constitutes gross misconduct," said Motata in court papers.
The former judge, who has been on special leave since September 2010, continues to enjoy a monthly income of R60000 a month. Effectively, he has earned R1.080-million for the past 18 months while off work.
Motata was found guilty of drunken driving in September 2009 after crashing his luxury car into the perimeter wall of the house of Johannesburg businessman Richard Baird on January 7 2007.
In his court papers, Motata had claimed that he only had two glasses of wine to drink.
He was sentenced to a fine of R20000 or one year imprisonment.
Motata has brought the application against Radebe, the JSC, AfriForum and Johannesburg bar senior counsel Gerrit Pretorius.
Pretorius wanted Motata to be removed from the bench, saying he was not fit to be a judge, while AfriForum lodged a case of hate speech against him for making alleged racist remarks towards Baird on the day of the crash.
In his court papers, Motata said there was no legal basis to AfriForum’s opinion that he should be removed permanently as a judge. He denied making racial utterances.
Motata said the misconduct inquiry was to be conducted with the aim of finding him guilty of gross misconduct.
"This is aimed at recommending, through Parliament, to the president, my removal from the office."
The judge also wants to the court to declare Radebe’s decision to place him on special leave unconstitutional and unlawful.
Motata said he was never consulted and nor did he agree to be placed on special leave.
He denied acknowledging that a judge could not realistically expect to carry out his duties while being the subject of an investigation involving allegations of racism, criminal conduct and dishonesty.
In a responding affidavit, the JSC’s Advocate Vasantrai Soni said Motata’s case had no merit.
Soni said the JCS’s authority to investigate a judge and decide if he was guilty of gross misconduct arose directly from the constitution.
The JSC said it had played no role in Radebe’s decision to place Motata on special leave.
Banks clients lost R180m in fraud scam
28 February 2012
SOUTH African banking customers were scammed out of R180-million in 2010 alone.
This astronomical figure was up from R40-million in the previous year, the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court heard yesterday.
General manager of commercial crime at the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) Susan Potgieter testified that 1500 complaints about phishing were received in 2009.
Potgieter also revealed that in the last three to four years South Africa had alternated between third and fourth place among countries with the highest incidents of phishing – a sophisticated crime in which criminals trick customers into disclosing confidential banking details before raiding their accounts.
Giving evidence before magistrate Vincent Ratshibvumo, Potgieter said insiders were instrumental in the effective commission of the crime.
"Criminals are colluding with people who have expert knowledge to circumvent measures put in place by banks to safeguard their systems," Potgieter explained.
"This is impacting negatively on consumer confidence."
She was giving evidence yesterday in the pre-sentencing hearing of Mbokodana Khoza.
Khoza, 32, a former Vodacom technician, pleaded guilty to defrauding 10 Vodacom customers of about R380,000 by duplicating their SIM cards.
Khoza and his alleged accomplices – named as Mbusi Bhengu, Gregory Oduore and Thabiso Gwebuza on court documents – intercepted SMS communication meant for the 10 customers, allowing them to gain access to confidential banking information.
Khoza carried out his scam between June and July 2009 before he was arrested on July 9 of that year and was charged with contravening Section 49 (1) of Act 70 of 2002.
He pleaded guilty on February 7 this year. Sentencing was postponed.
Teen bites off rapist’s tongue
28 February 2012
A TEENAGER bit off a man’s tongue while he was raping her in Masoyi, near Hazyview, Mpumalanga police said.
The 17-year-old girl was held up by an armed man and his accomplice, and dragged into bushes on Saturday, Lieutenant-Colonel Leonard Hlathi said.
The man with the gun told his partner to fetch alcohol and some friends to gang rape the girl. He then forcefully undressed her and began to rape her.
"In the process, the suspect tried to kiss the victim, but she bit off his tongue and ran to nearby houses for help," Hlathi said.
Police were alerted, tracked down the man and arrested him.
The suspect is being kept under police guard in hospital and is expected to appear in the Kabokweni Magistrate’s Court when he is discharged.
Rapist lawyer gets jailed for 15 years
28 February 2012
A WELL-KNOWN lawyer for the Legal Aid Board based in Makhado, Limpopo, was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment by the Polokwane Regional Court yesterday for raping a 15-year-old girl.
Police in Limpopo said the rape was committed on the night of December 21 2010 in Dorp Street in Polokwane, where Thomas Phalatsoe lived.
Spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Mohale Ramatseba said the victim, who is from Mapela village outside Mokopane, left home after some differences with her guardian.
"The girl went to Polokwane with the intention of seeking police intervention. But the accused saw the girl in the street and offered to assist her," Ramatseba said.
"He, instead, took the girl to his home where she was raped during the night and released the following day."
Ramatseba said they welcomed the sentence and that the rape of a vulnerable and desperate girl who needed help from a law man was to be condemned.
"We believe this will serve as a deterrent to would-be rapists and hope the sentence will send a strong message to other men out there who are still harbouring the same mentality of raping women.
Dad not guilty of rape
28 February 2012
A 41-YEAR-OLD North West man has been found not guilty of raping his daughter.
The verdict follows a DNA test not linking the man to the crime.
The identity of the man cannot be revealed to protect the victim.
The medical report on the charge sheet states that the child was raped by the accused but the DNA result came out negative, proving that the man did not rape the girl.
The girl previously told the court she had sex with her father at his house on two occasions.
Passing judgment yesterday, Mmabatho Regional Court magistrate Abigail Juries found that the state had not proved its case beyond reasonable doubt.
Juries said although it was clear that the child had been raped, the evidence did not link the case with the accused.
She also said witnesses had contradicted each other during the trial.
It is alleged that the man started raping his daughter in 2006 when she was three years old and repeated the rape again when the girl was six years old.
Moyo robbery case postponed
28 February 2012
Escape artist Bongani Moyo and three co-accused appeared in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday on a string of armed robbery charges.
Magistrate Maryke de la Rey postponed the matter to March 28 to allow the State to make an application to the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions to charge the four in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.
They remain in custody
Moyo, a Zimbabwean, faces armed robbery charges with Leon Ncube, Khumbulani Sibanda and Thabani Sibanda.
The four made their court appearance via a video link from Pretoria Central Prison.
State prosecutor Abe Koalepe told the court the State had finished gathering evidence, but wanted a two-month postponement for the Prevention of Organised Crime Act application.
De la Rey said she could not allow a two-month postponement and expected the State to inform her on March 28 of progress made.
Moyo made headlines when he escaped from the court in August by nonchalantly walking out with members of the public. He had been using crutches when he was brought to court by prison officials.
He was re-arrested three weeks later.
It was not the Zimbabwean’s first escape attempt. In March, he escaped from Boksburg prison. He was arrested again almost three months later.
Moyo is expected to appear in court on Thursday in connection with his escape from the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court.
Ex-MEC faces grilling over fraud
28 February 2012
The beleaguered Eastern Cape health department has been hit by yet another scandal – this time police want to question a former MEC in connection with her alleged role in a multimillion-rand fraud case that could possibly lead to her arrest.
Provincial police, assisted by the elite Hawks unit, want to grill Nomsa Jajula over R11.8-million fraud and corruption scandal involving the health department when she was still in the hot seat.
Her imminent questioning follows the arrest and subsequent court appearance of former superintendent-general Lawrence Boya and four others.
The Times has learnt that police visited Jajula’s King William’s Town home on Sunday to question her, but that she was not present.
Provincial Hawks head, General Yvonne Badi, confirmed yesterday that they want answers from Jajula as she was the political head of the department when the alleged crimes were committed.
"Depending on what she says, she will either be a witness or a suspect," said Badi.
Boya, who now works for the City of Joburg after leaving the province in 2009, was arrested last week and made a brief appearance in the Pretoria Commercial Crimes Court, where he was released on R5000 bail.
He and four others – Malibongwe Mtuzula (former chief director: infrastructure), Akhona Ngxola (deputy director: infrastructure) and two businessmen, Dion Botha and Dumisa Bellman – are accused of fraud, corruption, bribery and theft totalling more than R11.8-million.
Mtuzula, Ngxola, Botha and Bellman appeared in the East London Magistrate’s Court yesterday and were released on R5000 bail each. They are also implicated in alleged bribery involving R482 000.
Their arrests follow investigations by police after a forensic report unearthed alleged irregularities and maladministration between 2007 and 2009. Badi said central to the charges was a hospital revitalisation plan, specifically the Cecilia Makiwane Hospital in Mdantsane, East London.
"Among others, procurement processes were incorrect," he said.
A 2010 PricewaterhouseCoopers report stated that, though a Cape Town-based company, Sakhiwo Health Solutions, was irregularly appointed as a service provider, Mtuzula allegedly still motivated for it to be paid.
The auditors said the enlisting of Sakhiwo’s services had been procured irregularly in 37 cases, but that Mtuzula had allegedly motivated for the payment of the funds.
In a November 9 2009 memo to Boya, Mtuzula wrote that Jajula wanted Sakhiwo appointed "within two weeks" to develop 37 "business cases" at all district, specialised and tertiary hospitals.
Jajula wanted to submit the business cases urgently to the national Treasury for funding.
Badi said though the accused had not pleaded, Mtuzula and Ngxola said they were taking instructions from Jajula.
Jajula did not answer her phone or respond to text messages.
Badi said more arrests were expected.
Bail given in gay club murder
28 February 2012
ONE of four men accused of killing the owner of a gay nightclub was granted bail by the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court yesterday.
Kurt Erispe,35, was released on bail of R10 000 and the trial was postponed to March 7, His bail bid was not opposed.
Bruno Bronn, owner of the Bronx nightclub, was found dead on the floor of his home in Sea Point on February 7.
His hand had been tied in front of him and he had marks on his neck. State advocate Quenton Appeals said there was no reason to oppose bail as Erispe had no previous convictions, and no pending criminal cases or other warrants for his arrest.
Erispe was ordered not to make contact with witnesses.
Lack of evidence shelves trafficking case
28 February 2012
Charges have been dropped against seven people accused of human trafficking and of using women for prostitution, KwaZulu-Natal police said on Monday
"The case was provisionally withdrawn on Sunday because of insufficient evidence," Captain Thulani Zwane said.
The seven were arrested in Umbilo, in Durban, on Saturday after a tip-off about a house that was being used as a brothel. The premises were raided on Friday afternoon.
"During the operation, five females and two men were found in the house. The key suspects, a manager and her son, as well as a security guard, were charged with human trafficking and keeping a brothel," Zwane said at the time.
Four other people were charged with prostitution.